For the first time, there is optimism from local health officials regarding the pandemic. “Things are looking good,” according to Moore County Health Director Robert Wittmann as he made his regular presentation to the Moore County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.
He pointed to a third vaccine approved for use, trends heading in the right direction, and teachers and staff now being vaccinated for his reason to be optimistic.
First doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be delivered to Moore County this week. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the third vaccine last month that is expected to ease the backlog of people waiting for vaccinations. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one shot and does not require subzero refrigeration.
Health officials are hopeful that the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine will speed up the rate of vaccinations and reduce the backlog of those still waiting. The new vaccine has been proven to be effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths due to the coronavirus, according to Wittmann.
Daily cases, hospitalizations and the percent of positive test cases continue to trend downward in Moore County. “Trends are moving in the right direction,” said Moore County Public Information Officer Matt Garner. Some of the key metrics have not looked so good since last November, according to Garner.
Commissioners also learned those that work at schools, preschools and day cares in Moore County are now being vaccinated, regardless of age.
Teachers, principals, child care providers, and all support staff should be vaccinated by the end of next week. Support staff includes bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other staff in Pre-K thru 12th grade.
Beginning Wednesday, front-line workers that need to be at work to do their jobs will be eligible. This group includes people that work in grocery stores and pharmacies, restaurant workers and farmworkers. Front-line workers also include law enforcement, firefighters and EMS workers.
In Moore County, front-line workers can begin to register for an appointment by calling the health department after March 10. The number of people that will be vaccinated each day will depend on vaccine availability.
During the meeting, Wittmann urged Moore County residents eligible to be vaccinated to receive any one of the three FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines. He also encouraged residents to find any location, even those in other counties, that offer an appointment or walk-up vaccinations.
The website YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov can be used to find vaccination locations across North Carolina.
A change will be made in the way the health department reports deaths connected to COVID-19. Beginning this week, health officials will not wait for laboratory confirmation before reporting it to the public. Instead, it will rely only on the information listed on the death certificate.
Commissioner Louis Gregory thanked the board of health and the health department for providing “accurate and up-to-date information.”
File photo of Moore County Health Department Public Information Officer Matt Garner addressing the board of commissioners.
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.